Radical Think Tank Open Europe has this week exposed a study by the EU that could lead to the creation of a massive cross-Europe database, amassing vast amounts of personal data on every single citizen in the EU.
The scope of this project also reveals a growing governmental preference for systems capable of locking people up not for what they have done, but for what they might do.
The rise in complaints against police in England and Wales by 8% to more than 30,000 individual grievances last year cannot be easily dismissed by the suggestion that people have simply become more aware of the complaints procedure. There are
important underlying trends that the police and politicians would be wrong to ignore.
The one I want to focus on here is the way the manner of the police has deteriorated in the last decade. Whenever I encounter officers individually they seem helpful and on top of the job, but when it comes to policing large demonstrations,
football crowds and so on, the police appear to lose what should be an instinctive respect for the law-abiding public.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, says the Human Rights Act. This freedom includes the right to manifest his (or her) religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
That's a fine aspiration but of course the Human Rights Act (HRA) isn't all it's cracked up to be by its supporters.
An ad in the New Statesman was headlined I work on the Identity Card system for the UK Government. Below, text stated >The "National Identity Register" is the most detailed citizen database of its kind in the world. I am
security cleared, which means I can get anything I want, on any UK resident. Address, heath info, financial records, criminal records, whatever. >It's all meant to be stored securely but anyone who works on the project knows it can't be.
Better yet, I have a contact who works for a mobile telephone company, so sometimes I can cross-match a person to their geographical location for the last six months or more. I know exactly who they speak to. And when their mother calls. And
where she lives, too. >I sell information, if the price is right. Trade is good at the moment. It's mostly private investigators and newspapers, but I get some unusual stuff too. I don't ask questions. It's nothing personal; it's just
business. >I am God :o). Text below read The Government wants state management of personal identity. It isn't simple. Or safe. NO2ID is a non-partisan campaign to stop it. Join us. www.no2id.net.
A complainant objected that the ad:
misleadingly exaggerated the information that would be held on the National Identity Register and how staff would be able to access it
was offensive to those who worked for the National Identity Register and implied they were corrupt.
1. Not upheld
We noted the National Identity Register was not yet in existence, but that under current proposals, the database would not contain health, financial or criminal records. We considered, however, that readers of the New Statesman would understand
that NO2ID was a lobby group opposed to the ID card scheme and that the ad used an illustrative fictionalised account to set out their view that the ID card system was a threat to personal privacy and that a national database system might be
vulnerable to abuse. We noted that the issues relating to the National Identity Register and ID card scheme, including the information the database was likely to hold, had been well documented in the press, and considered people would recognise
the ad was deliberately controversial, to encourage discussion on a sensitive political issue. We concluded that the ad was not misleading.
2. Not upheld
We did not consider that most people would interpret the ad to mean that all those who might work for the National Identity Register, or a similar database scheme, were corrupt and likely to sell confidential information or abuse their position.
We considered people would understand that the ad was highlighting a lobbying group's opinion that a database containing personal information might be vulnerable to abuse by a minority of those who worked with it. We concluded therefore that the
ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Dominic Grieve has launched a new policy paper containing plans to reduce the role of surveillance and protect the public's privacy.
The Shadow Justice Secretary said the paper is a response to an ever increasing intrusive Government which relies on expensive databases and the reduction of civil liberties.
Dominic set out our agenda for fewer central databases and stronger duties on government to keep the private information it gathers safe in an 11 point plan, with measures including:
Scrapping the National Identity Register and ContactPoint database
Establishing clear principles for the use and retention of DNA on the National DNA Database, including ending the permanent or prolonged retention of innocent people's DNA
Restricting and restraining local council access to personal communications data
Reviewing protection of personal privacy from the surveillance state as part of a British Bill of Rights.
Strengthening the audit powers and independence of the Information Commissioner
Requiring Privacy Impact Assessments on any proposals for new legislation or other measures that involve data collection or sharing at the earliest opportunity. Require government to consult the Information Commissioner on the PIA and publish
Immediately submitting the Home Office's plans for the retention of, and access to, communications data to the Information Commissioner for pre-legislative scrutiny
Requiring new powers of data-sharing to be introduced into law by primary legislation, not by order.
Appointing a Minister and senior civil servant (at Director General level) in each Government ministry with responsibility for departmental operational data security
Tasking the Information Commissioner to publish guidelines on best practice in data security in the public sector
Tasking the Information Commissioner to carry out a consultation with the private sector, with a view to establishing guidance on data security, including examining the viability of introducing an industry-wide kite mark system of best practice
Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, has ordered a review of the Government's scheme to vet around 11 million adults who work with children or vulnerable adults.
Balls said he wanted to look again at the scope of the Vetting and Barring scheme to make sure the right balance has been struck on how many people are covered.
There was outrage last week when it emerged parents who regularly give lifts to other children on behalf of clubs like the Cub Scouts would be required to undergo criminal records and other checks.
The supposed review will be carried out by ISA chairman Sir Roger Singleton and will report by the beginning of December, Balls said.
In a letter to Barry Sheerman MP, the chairman of the Commons Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, Balls defended the scheme, and claimed there was strong support for it among children's charities and in the voluntary sector.
He claimed that asking people to register for vetting was categorically not a presumption of guilt, but a sensible and proportionate contribution to keeping children safe .
But he acknowledged concerns about how low the bar for contact with children was set before people were required to register.
Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said the announcement was "not good enough" and called for a review of the whole issue. He said: I'm afraid this is just not good enough. The reality is that the Government's words on
this are so vague and ill-defined that no one will know where the dividing line falls. They'll look at the level of fines and register everyone to be on the safe side. The Government has to look at this whole issue again.
It takes 100 years or more for some species of tree to grow to full size but a few minutes to cut them down. The roots may live and sprout but the tree never grows back in quite the same way again. The question that faces the British electorate
in the next eight months or so is whether the same applies to the conventions of liberty, trust and privacy which have been felled by Labour's chainsaw. Is the damage irreversible or can the opposition parties muster the leadership and will to
guarantee a restoration of all that has been lost in the last 12 years?
The question haunts me. Every day, there is some new example of madness or spite perpetrated by a government that seems now in its final gibbering months to be waging war on normality itself. What better betrays the suspicion and dread that
writhe in the minds of civil servants and ministers than a law which requires every parent to join a government database and be vetted before accompanying their children's friends to some sport event or scout meeting, where, incidentally, the
traditional penknife is now banned?
Ministers are under intense pressure to scale back plans for a big brother child protection database which will force millions of parents to undergo paedophile and criminal checks.
In a major blow for the Government, Britain's largest children's charity, the NSPCC, criticised the regulations for parent helpers which it said threatened perfectly safe and normal activities and risked alienating the public.
Esther Rantzen, the founder of the Childline charity; paediatricians; teachers; children's authors; politicians and members of the public also joined the growing coalition opposing the Vetting and Barring Scheme, which could lead to one in four
adults being screened.
Barry Sheerman, Labour chairman of the Commons' children and families select committee condemned the way the policy was being implemented and demanded that Children's Secretary Ed Balls get a grip on this.
Next month parents in England and Wales who take part in any formal agreement to look after children – even if it is as little as once a month – will be told they have to register with the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) – at a cost
of £64. From next summer, parents who have failed to register with the ISA could face prosecution.
Critics claim parents will be wrongly labelled as criminals. Others fear that those who currently give up their time to help out in schools and clubs could give up rather than go through the hassle of registering.
Wes Cuell, director of services for children and young people for the NSPCC, said: The warning signs are now out there that this scheme will stop people doing things that are perfectly safe and normal, things that they shouldn't be prevented
When you get this degree of public outcry there is generally a good reason for it. I think we are getting a bit too close to crossing the line about what is acceptable in the court of public opinion. We don't want to throw the baby out with the
Only 8,000 people have enquired about getting the government's ID cards, which will be launched in Manchester.
During a live webchat at the M.E.N offices, Lord Bill Brett, the minister responsible for the introduction of the ID card scheme, admitted only a small percentage of the population had asked about the voluntary scheme.
Lord Brett hopes the cards, available in Manchester in October, will be rolled out across the north west by 2010, and eventually the rest of the country: We have not set targets for what is a purely voluntary scheme, but our research shows a
majority of people support ID cards. We are confident that support and the number of ID cards will grow incrementally in the period from its introduction in Manchester to the ongoing rollout across the country.
Meg Hillier, the Home Office minister stuck with responsibility for the scheme, revealed in a Commons answer this week that a whacking 1,300 people in Greater Manchester "have applied and attended an enrolment appointment for an identity
card" between November 30 and January 14, 2010.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the US has amended its policy to seize any electronic device brought into the country, in a bid to counter criticisms that the policy infringes civil liberties.
The DHS conducts border searches of computers and other electronic media on a percentage of international travellers seeking to enter the US. Most times, the traveller is asked to turn on a device to ensure it is what it appears to be. But out of
the 1,000 laptop searches between October 2008 and August 2009, 46 searches were in-depth.
Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the new directives to clarify searches of computers and other electronic media at US ports of entry. The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy
of all travellers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders, she claimed.
The number of Big Brother snooping missions by police, town halls and other public bodies has soared by 44% in two years.
Last year there were 504,073 new cases. This is the equivalent of one adult in 78 coming under state-sanctioned surveillance.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said last night: It cannot be a justified response to the problems we face in this country that the state is spying on half a million people a year. The Government forgets that George Orwell's 1984
was a warning, not a blueprint. We are still a long way from living under the Stasi - but it beggars belief that is necessary to spy on one in every 78 adults.
The requests to intercept email and telephone records were made under the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. A total of 653 state bodies, including 474 local councils, are allowed to use its surveillance powers.
Huhne said it made a mockery of a supposed crackdown on the use of RIPA by the Home Office. He added: We have sleepwalked into a surveillance state but without adequate safeguards. Having the Home Secretary in charge of authorisation is like
asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
Despite the huge number of requests, the Home Office says there is a need to go further than giving public bodies access to phone and internet records. Under plans unveiled earlier this year, the police and security services would gain access to
the public's every internet click and phone call. This would include, for the first time, monitoring the use of social networking sites such as Facebook. Every internet and phone company would have to allocate an ID to each customer.
The Communications Data Bill would give the Government the legal authority to collect a database of every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public. Even though the Government insists that this bill would reduce terrorism
(which it probably will not), this is an intolerable intrusion into the privacy of free citizens and a step towards a dystopian "Big Brother" state. The Bill must be quashed to protect civil liberties and halt the slippery slope towards
an Orwellian 1984-type nightmare.
Result: Snooping On
Closed with 1210 signatures
The Government has not proposed to create a centralised database which would hold the content (what was said or written in a communication) of all phone calls and e-mails sent by the public.
In April 2009, the Government published a consultation paper “Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment” which considers how best to maintain the capability of public authorities to obtain access to communications data. The
existing capability is declining in the face of rapid technological changes in the communications industry. The consultation document does, however, specifically rule out a central database holding all communications data.
Communications data is the “who, when, where and how” information from mobile phone calls, texts, e-mails and instant messages but is not the content. The use of communications data is an important capability that is used by the police and other
agencies to protect the public and fight crime and terrorism.
The consultation outlines ways to collect and retain communications data and seeks views on how to strike the right balance between privacy and security. The system the consultation proposes is based on the current model where communications
service providers collect and retain data and where there are strict and effective safeguards in place to ensure that relevant public authorities can only access the data on a case-by-case basis, when it is necessary and proportionate to do so.
More than 1,500 people have been wrongly branded as criminals or mistakenly given a clean record by the government agency set up to vet those working with children.
The number of errors by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has more than doubled in the past 12 months, despite intense pressure for it to improve its performance.
Many of the victims of mistakes would have been intending to take up jobs as teachers, nurses and childminders, or become youth volunteers.
Hundreds of innocent people have been accused of wrongdoing by the CRB. They are likely to have faced career problems or stigma from their communities as a result. They will also have had to go through an appeals process to clear their names.
The worsening figures are an embarrassment for the Home Office, which faced criticism after the number of errors by the bureau was first highlighted by The Daily Telegraph last year.
The latest figures show that 1,570 people being checked by the CRB were wrongly given criminal records, mistakenly given a clean record or accused of more serious offences than they had actually committed in the year to March 31.
This compares with 680 people in the previous 12 months. The disclosure is likely to deter innocent people from applying for positions that require scrutiny, for fear of being labelled a criminal.
A copy of the CRB's annual report, which will be formally published next month, shows that 3.9 million certificates were processed by the agency: an increase of 500,000 on 2007-08 and the highest figure since the agency's creation.
Thousands of families in England are to be put in 'sin bins' in a bid to change their 'bad behaviour', Ed Balls has announced.
The Children's Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV supervision in their own homes.
They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.
Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.
Around 2,000 families have gone through these Family Intervention Projects so far. But ministers want to target 20,000 more in the next two years..
Balls said: This is pretty tough and non-negotiable support for families to get to the root of the problem. There should be Family Intervention Projects in every local authority area because every area has families that need support.
Internet firms have condemned the government's Big Brother surveillance plans as an unwarranted intrusion into people's privacy.
The companies, which ministers are relying on to implement the scheme, also say the government has misled the public about how far it plans to go in monitoring internet use.
The criticism, contained in a private submission to the Home Office, threatens to derail the £2 billion project, which ministers claim is essential to combat terrorism and crime.
Despite hostility from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups, government security officials want to be able to monitor every e-mail, phone call and website visit of people in the UK. The government claims it wants simply to maintain its capability to fight serious crime and terrorism.
However, the submission — by the London Internet Exchange, which represents more than 330 firms including BT, Virgin and Carphone Warehouse — said: We view the description of the government's proposals as ‘maintaining' the capability as
disingenuous: the volume of data the government now proposes [we] should collect and retain will be unprecedented, as is the overall level of intrusion into the privacy of citizenry.
This is a purely political description that serves only to win consent by hiding the extent of the proposed extension of powers for the state.
Apart from accusing ministers and officials of hiding the truth from the public, the internet firms dismissed the plans as technically unworkable. In a statement earlier this year, GCHQ denied that it planned to spy on every e-mail and website
visit in the UK. The internet providers, however, made it clear they do not believe that denial.
These new proposals suggest an intention to capture anything and everything, regardless of the communications [method] used. We have grave misgivings about the technical feasibility of such ambition, they said: We are not aware of any
existing equipment [an internet company] could purchase that would enable it to fulfil a legal obligation to acquire and retain such a wide range of data as it transits across their network ... in some common cases it would be impossible in
principle to obtain the information sought.
The internet providers also complained that the new proposals might be illegal under European or human rights laws. They said the plans would involve the collection of data which is unprecedented both in volume and the level of intrusion into
Home Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled the final design of the British national identity card.
The card will be offered to members of the public in the Greater Manchester area from the end of this year. Volunteering for a car will also incur a lifetime of having to keep the state informed of address changes etc under duress of enormous
Ministers plan to launch the £30 biometric ID card nationwide in 2011 or 2012 - but it will not be immediately compulsory.
Opposition spokesmen said it was a colossal waste of money and civil liberty groups said it was as costly to our pockets as to our privacy.
Ministers say the card, which follows the launch of the foreign national ID card, will provide an easy way of safely proving identity.
The card is very similar in look to a UK driving licence but holds more data, including two fingerprints and a photograph encoded on a chip. This chip and its unique number in turn links the card to a national identity register which, under
current legislation, will hold more information about the identity of the individual.
If the scheme goes ahead, the card could be used as a travel document within Europe, separate to the passport, similar to arrangements between other EU member states.
Like the UK passport, the front of the card displays the royal crest as well as the thistle, the rose, the shamrock and the daffodil to represent the four parts of the UK.
No2ID, a national pressure group, is launching a counter-campaign across North-West England to derail the Home Office's plan. Dave Page, from the organisation, said: Once you are on that database, you can never come off it.
From the moment you're registered you'll have to tell the authorities of any change in your circumstances for the rest of your life - and pay whatever fees they ask for the 'service'.
You'll never know who's looking at your details. It won't protect our safety. It won't be convenient - except for Whitehall. This scheme is an expensive and dangerous con.
A carrier in the United Arab Emirates sent a message to its users, recommending they install an update that would ostensibly improve 3G performance. Instead, it appears to contain a payload from an electronic surveillance specialist.
Etisalat is a service provider in the UAE. Earlier this month, Blackberry users on its network received texts from Etisalat, saying that an update was available that would improve the handoff between 2G and 3G networks. Not surprisingly, many
users installed the software. A number of users, however, began to have significant problems with battery drain afterwards, which caused some people to dig into the contents of the software update.
What they found is rather disturbing. Rather than coming from RIM, the update was apparently produced by a company called SS8, which specializes in various forms of electronic surveillance. Despite the publicity, which now includes an extensive
article in The Wall Street Journal, Etisalat is still recommending that its users install the software.
According to someone contacted by The Journal, the SS8 software will intercept e-mail traffic and forward it on to two addresses at Etisalat itself.
Plans to force passengers travelling from Ireland and the Channel Islands to carry a passport for travel to mainland Britain have been quietly shelved.
The move to introduce passport controls within the Common Travel Area - which includes Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands - for the first time in more than 80 years had been criticised by airlines and ferry companies,
amid warnings of "travel chaos" at airports and terminals.
Earlier this year, peers in the House of Lords voted against the proposal, contained in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill.
Alan Johnson, the new Home Secretary, ruled that the Government would not fight to restore the measure, which would have affected the 15 million people who travel within the British Isles each year, when it returned to the Commons, effectively
killing the plan off.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: Conservatives have argued consistently that the Common Travel Area is useful for the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Channel Islands and that the Government was wrong in seeking to abolish
it. We are delighted that our arguments have won the day.
A spokesman for the British Air Transport Association said that it had called for the rules to be clarified to avoid confusion at airports.
The Canadian Government has introduced legislation to expand its surveillance of Internet users.
In the spring, the Government of Canada introduced two pieces of legislation that would greatly expand the power of the state to monitor its citizens online activity. The legislation, known as the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century (IP21C)
Act, would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to install costly surveillance systems on their networks and give police wide ranging new powers that do away with judicial oversight.
According to University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, the legislation would create additional requirements for ISPs and expand police powers. These ISP requirements can be broken down into two components. First, ISPs will be required to
install costly surveillance equipment on their networks. Part of the cost will fall to taxpayers while the remainder will be carried by the companies themselves. Some smaller ISPs will be exempt from this requirement for a period of three years,
creating an unfair burden on the larger, more successful companies. Second, the legislation would requires that all ISPs give personal information to the government, including the names of their customers, as well as their IP, e-mail, and mailing
addresses—on demand and without any judicial oversight.
Police will also gain expanded powers under this legislation. First, they will be able to obtain information about Internet-based messaging, including tracking what sites people are visiting and who they are communicating with. This information
will be subject to a judicial order. Second, police will be able to order ISPs to preserve data on their customers. Third, police will be able to obtain a warrant to remotely activate tracking devices in technologies such as cellular telephones.
Fourth, the legislation also deals with computer viruses and makes it easier for the government to coordinate its efforts with international governments.
There are numerous problems with the proposed legislation that should be alarming to freedom loving Canadians. It forces private business to not only be complicit in the government's attempt to spy on its citizens, it also forces them to shoulder
much of the financial responsibility for the new policy. As such, some ISPs may be forced out of business. In addition, the legislation gives law enforcement officials unprecedented access to private communications and forces ISPs to preserve
private data and disclose subscribers identities.
MPs have approved fines of up to £1,000 for those who fail to tell the passport and identity service of changes in their personal details including address, name, nationality and gender.
The fines are part of a package of secondary legislation being pushed through parliament designed to implement the national identity card scheme, and which will allow sensitive personal data on the ID card/passport database to be shared with the
police, security services and other government departments.
The regulations were approved as the Conservative party made clear for the first time their commitment to scrap not only the identity card scheme but also its underlying database.
The shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, told MPs: One of the first acts of a Conservative government will be cancelling the ID cards scheme. The scheme and the register are both an affront to British liberty and will have no place in a
Conservative Britain. They are also a huge waste of money.
The Conservatives' home affairs spokesman, Damian Green, asked how the scheme could be voluntary when they were penalties for failing to provide information for the database: If it is a voluntary card, why are there penalties attached
for failing to provide that information? he said, adding that the government should warn people that once they volunteer for a passport or ID card it was then compulsory for the rest of their lives.
Fines starting at £125 and rising to £1,000 are to be levied on those who fail to notify the authorities of a change of name or address, or to surrender an identity card, or to report a card lost, stolen, damaged, tampered with or
Brits who apply for or renew their passport will be automatically registered on the national identity card database under regulations to be approved by MPs in the next few weeks.
The decision to press ahead with the main elements of the national identity card scheme follows a review by the home secretary, Alan Johnson. Although Johnson claimed the cards would not be compulsory, critics say the passport measures amount to
an attempt to introduce the system by the backdoor.
Johnson said he had halted plans to introduce compulsory identity cards for airline pilots and 30,000 other critical workers at Manchester and London City airports this autumn in the face of threats of legal action. Longer term plans to
extend compulsory ID cards to other transport industries, such as the railways, as a condition of employment have also been scrapped.
But two batches of draft regulations to be approved by MPs tomorrow and next week are expected to include powers to make the passport a designated document under the national identity card scheme. This means that anyone applying for or
renewing their passport from 2011 will have their details automatically added to the national identity databases.
The regulations also include powers to levy a fine of up to £1,000 on those who fail to tell the authorities of a change of address or amend other key personal details such as a change of name within three months.
Johnson said he wanted to see the introduction of identity cards accelerated for foreign nationals resident in Britain and for young early adopters for whom they would act as a useful proof of age. This trial is to be extended from
Manchester to other parts of the north-west.
Isabella Sankey, director of policy at the human rights group Liberty, said the home secretary needed to be clear as to whether entry onto the national identity register was going to continue to be automatic when applying for a passport.
If so, the identity scheme will be compulsory in practice. However you spin it, big ears, four legs and a long trunk still make an elephant, she said.
Guy Herbert of the No2ID campaign said the pressing ahead with making the passport a designated document made a nonsense of the home secretary's assertion that the scheme was not compulsory: It is not compulsory as long as you don't
want to leave the country.